St. Thomas Academy boys' hockey is moving on up to Class 2A.
Co-head coach Greg Vannelli, who along with his brother, Tom, led the Cadets to the past two consecutive Class 1A titles and four in the past seven seasons, said school administration made the decision Friday.
St. Thomas Academy, an all-boys private school located in Mendota Heights, will join the 2A ranks starting with the 2013-14 season. Greg Vannelli said the program is not testing the waters and plans to remain in Class 2A indefinitely.
"We're committed long-term," Vannelli said. "The only thing that would change that is severe economic conditions that would affect our enrollment, not just of hockey players but of students overall."
One of the state's most successful programs in recent years, the Cadets were also among the most scrutinized for playing in Class 1A, despite perceived advantages. Critics cited such examples as the school's metro- area location, a wealth of high- level 2A competition on the schedule each year and an on-campus hockey rink used by the University of St. Thomas and, occasionally, the Minnesota Wild. This fall, the Cadets had the largest group of players -- nine -- in the Fall Elite League.
Past St. Thomas Academy players have expressed interest in moving up while opposing coaches in Class 2A have publicly questioned the Cadets' decision to remain in 1A. All of these elements, Vannelli said, factored in to the decision to move up.
"The last couple of times we've won the state tournament, people have wanted to talk about where we play instead of what we accomplished," Vannelli said. "That gets frustrating.
"It's exciting, and I'm sure our players will embrace this new challenge."